Sunday, May 02, 2010

In Memoriam: Faisal II

Given the current schamozzle in Iraq, the casual observer could easily be forgiven for forgetting that the country once had a snowball's chance in Basra of becoming a democracy, but it did; at one point in the 1950s, when it was still allied with its fellow Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Iraq's King Faisal II was hard at work with his cousin King Hussein to ensure that the same pan-Arab nationalism (which was then, as it is currently) seeking to return the Arab world to the 14th Century would neither catch nor sink their own countries as well.

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1935, Faisal was the son of King Ghazi and Queen Aliya; Ghazi was killed in a mysterious motoring accident when Faisal was 3, and thereafter his uncle 'Abd al-Ilah served as regent.

Educated at the UK's famed Harrow School (alongside Hussein), Faisal came of age on this day in 1953, at which time he set about trying to combat the various sectarian stresses which have plagued Iraq since it was rather haphazardly carved out of the Ottoman Empire under a UK mandate by the League of Nations in August 1921.

It was not to last, or indeed produce much in the way of results, although not for lack of trying. Despite his youthful vigour and the promise of a marriage to Egypt's Princess Sabiha, in July 1958 Faisal, along with his uncle Crown Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, Abdul Ilah's wife Princess Hiyam, Abdul Ilah’s mother Princess Nafeesa, the King's aunt Princess Abadiya, and several servants were all executed by a firing squad under the command of Captain Abdus Sattar As Sab in the courtyard of their palace in Baghdad on the orders of Colonel Abdul Karim Qassim, who had just seized the government. The following day the Prime Minister Nuri as-Said was also killed. Iraq has been a dictatorship ever since, whether under the thumb of Saddam Hussein or held hostage by insurgents (who, it scarcely needs saying, generally aren't Iraqi).

Jordan, on the other hand, has experienced exactly the kind of progress of which the two cousin kings once dreamt, and is currently a bastion of moderation in the Islamic world - thanks in large part to the guiding hand of the late lamented King Hussein.
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